Wine drinking at 10-year high
Noel Gallagher - August 15, 2003
Wildly popular "Two-Buck Chuck" wines and surging import sales fueled 2002 wine consumption in the United States to a 10-year high, according to two new surveys.
Figures from an annual report by Impact Databank shows overall wine consumption was up 6 percent to 245 million cases last year. Impact Databank is owned by New York-based M. Shanken Communications Inc., the parent company of Wine Spectator magazine.
Similar growth was reported in the recently released 2003 edition of the Adams Wine Handbook in Norwalk, Conn., an annual publication that tracks industry statistics.
The wine industry overall is in a down cycle, the result of a grape glut that has flooded the market with cheap grapes and an economic downturn that has consumers tightening their pocketbooks.
Those factors led to the creation and booming sales of Charles Shaw $1.99 wines – known as "Two-Buck Chuck" – that were produced with inexpensive grapes and intended for budget-minded consumers.
But local growers and wineries don't necessarily benefit by the surging popularity of imports and extreme value wines, according to Jon Fredrikson, a Woodside wine consultant.
"There is a lot of good news because we haven't seen that kind of growth in many years, " Fredrikson said. "Unfortunately for Sonoma growers it's not all good news because imports drove a lot of that growth."
The Impact Databank survey found that 40 percent of overall consumption was from 23 wine brands that sold at least 2 million cases each. Among those major wineries were Franzia – which owns the Charles Shaw label – Carlo Rossi, Gallo, Beringer and Almaden box wines, according to the Spectator.
The Adams Wine Handbook also showed imports outpacing domestic table wine sales. Imported table wines increased 16 percent to 50 million cases, while domestic table wines were up 3.5 percent to 171 million cases.
Consumers are clearly attracted to inexpensive wines and to good value wines, no matter what the price per bottle is, according to Fredrikson.
"Perceived value is definitely in, a trend away from the conspicuous consumption that we had in the heyday of dot-com and people making trillions in the stock market," he said.
Next week, the Wine Market Council plans to release a survey that delves into the reasons behind recent trends in wine sales, according to president John Gillespie.
Overall wine consumption jumped 6 percent last year, the largest increase in 10 years, according to a recent survey from Impact Databank.
23 brands accounted for 40 percent of all consumption, each selling at least 2 million cases.